Just a few hours outside of Tokyo, but visually worlds away.
Japan’s Chichibu region is located at the western end of Saitama Prefecture, with Tokyo bordering its southern edge. By train, it takes about two and a half hours to get to Chichibu from central Tokyo, which makes it a popular day-trip and weekend getaway for residents of Japan’s capital.
With majestic mountains, lush forests, and relaxing hot springs, Chichibu can feel like a separate world from Tokyo. As a matter of fact, from one vantage point, Chichibu can feel like a separate world from Earth itself, as photography enthusiast Kazuki Sato showed his Twitter followers.
Shortly after midnight on March 3, Sato was behind the wheel of his car, headed for the observation deck at Chichibu’s Minoyama Park. The night was dark and foggy, making it difficult for Sato to see much of the road ahead.
秩父の雲海見にきたけど 霧濃過ぎて前見えない これは期待 #秩父雲海 https://t.co/F2Bvs73yF3—
Kazuki Sato (@kaz_55oo) March 02, 2017
Although the conditions were sub-par for driving, Sato anticipated that they were going to be ideal for photographing unkai. Meaning “sea of clouds,” unkai is an atmospheric phenomenon in which the cloud cover becomes so thick and rolling that it looks like the ocean. Mt. Fuji is largely considered to offer Japan’s most beautiful unkai view, but as Sato’s photos show, Minoyama Park is no slouch either in the unkai department.
こんなんやばいやん… #秩父雲海 https://t.co/g7qIQT4g8r—
Kazuki Sato (@kaz_55oo) March 03, 2017
With the lights of the far-off city and industrial area illuminating the fog in an array of soft pinks, blues, and other hues, Sato’s photographs have an ethereal quality that makes them look like something out of the hyper-stylized environments of a Final Fantasy video game or Makoto Shinkai anime.
Sato wasn’t the only one out at Mi no Yama Park that night either, as several other nocturnal shutterbugs shared snapshots of their own.
「まほろばファクトリー」 秩父の雲海製造工場を撮ってきました。 雲海を透過して輝く街灯りは相変わらず幻想的で美しかったです。 #秩父雲海 #美の山公園 https://t.co/L7yLpdSMPV—
もっさん (@Naaaassom) March 03, 2017
雲海 秩父 / 2017.03.03 『SEA OF CLOUDS IN CHICHIBU』03/03/2017 秩父ミューズパーク 展望台 美の山公園 展望台 秩父盆地を幻想な世界へと導き出す雲の織りなす芸術『秩父雲海』 https://t.co/8z1n9jAWnp—
橋塚大輔 (@HashizukaDesign) March 02, 2017
「Fantastic Night」 刻一刻と表情の変わる雲海の姿はまさに幻想的な夜でした。 この日の美の山には好き者の変態が沢山集合しました。 D5+AF-S NIKKOR 58mmf/1.4G #秩父雲海… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
みちすけ@今は猛禽カメラマン (@yukke2501) March 03, 2017
The Minoyama Park website lists November and April as the best times to see the area’s sea of clouds. That means as beautiful as these photos are, the view might be even more breathtaking in a few weeks, and since the park has plenty of cherry blossom trees that bloom in mid-April, next month sounds like the ideal time to visit.
Just don’t forget to charge your camera’s battery before you go.
Minoyama Park / 美の山公園
Address: Saitama-ken, Chichibu-gun, Minanomachi, Minano
Follow Casey on Twitter, where these photos have him ready to brave spending the day outdoors during hay fever season.
[ Read in Japanese ]